17 stories you can watch this World AIDS Day

Today, December 1, is World AIDS Day, a day to join the fight against HIV and AIDS, an opportunity to educate those on the impact of HIV and AIDS in history and present day, as well as to remember those who have passed away. There have been many storytellers and artists who crafted outstanding stories that convey the impact of the HIV and AIDS crisis, and which help to destigmatize the illness and fight against it with empathy and education. Here are 17 films, documentaries, and webseries featuring stories of people living with HIV and AIDS. Check out our list below, and let us know what you're going to watch.

The 1993 Emmy and GLAAD Media Award-winning television movie And the Band Played On tells the story of the doctors and the gay activists working to figure out the possible causes of the HIV and AIDS epidemic and to stop the disease from spreading. The movie addresses how the government and the larger medical community ignored the threat of AIDS and the resilience of the activists fighting to be heard. The cast includes remarkable performances from several out actors, including Ian McKellen, Lily Tomlin, and B.D. Wong. And the Band Played On is available to stream on HBO Go, or to buy or rent on Amazon, iTunes, and YouTube.

Based on the critically acclaimed and wildly popular play of the same name, the miniseries Angels in America (2003) tells the story of individuals in New York affected by the HIV and AIDS crisis from a politician to a drag queen to a man who is visited by an angel. This six hour miniseries won 11 Emmy Awards, as well as five Golden Globes, and the GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Miniseries. Tony Kushner’s play and screenplay’s commentary on the social and political conversations around AIDS is unmatched and stll relevant today. Angels in America is available to stream on HBO Go or to buy or rent on Amazon, iTunes and YouTube.

Internationally acclaimed French film BPM (Beats Per Minute), which won the Grand Prix at Cannes this year, is currently playing in theaters. The film revolves around the Paris division of activist group ACT UP. It tells an intimate and personal story of the activists who risked everything to be heard and the very real fight for their lives. BPM is the story of standing up for your rights as well as a queer love story. Beautifully directed by out filmmaker Robin Campillo, BPM is officially France’s submission for the Oscars. It is currently playing in limited release, and will roll out into more theaters over the next couple months. Check where to get tickets here!

The 1989 Academy Award-winning documentary Common Threads: Stories from the Quilt documents the making of the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt, the massive quilt to made to celebrate the lives of those lost to the HIV and AIDS epidemic. The film focuses on the specific stories of five individuals memorialized in the quilt, including Jeffrey Sevcik, the partner of GLAAD founder and activist Vito Russo. Common Threads: Stories from the Quilt is available for purchase on DVD.

The video series Empowered: Trans Women & HIV sits down with six trans women as they share their perspective and narrative on the HIV epidemic and how it effects them as trans women. The eight segment series confronts stigmas against both those with HIV and the trans community, by having people tell their individual stories as well as sitting down with each other in group conversation. Empowered: Trans Women & HIV is available to watch right now on Greater Than, a platform dedicated to fighting against the stigmas of HIV and AIDS.

How to Survive a Plague is an Academy Award-winning documentary that tells the story of the early years of AIDS activism in New York, with the activists fighting against the epidemic and to have their stories told. The film combines interviews and over 700 hours of archival footage to show the struggle to be heard by the medical community and the government. The film, along with the documentary United in Anger: A History of ACT UP, looks at how ACT UP in particular helped shape a conversation still being had today. How to Survive a Plague is available to stream on Netflix, and to rent or buy on Amazon, iTunes, and YouTube.

The first mainstream film to tackle HIV and AIDS, the 1989 movie Longtime Companion tells the stories of how a group of gay men were affected by the epidemic, over the course of a decade. The film shows the impact of AIDS and how many lives were lost. This groundbreaking and GLAAD Media Award-winning film is available for purchase on DVD.

One of the first American films to openly discuss HIV and AIDS, indie drama Parting Glances was filmed in 1984 and follows a gay couple right before one of them leaves for Africa. The stand out performance of the film is Steve Buscemi as Nick, a rock musician who is living with AIDS. His diagnosis is presented as part of the fabric of the world of a gay man in the '80s and treated realistically and with respect, and is the most compelling part of the film. Parting Glances is available for purchase on DVD or to stream for those with a Fandor subscription.

One of the first times a real person living with HIV and AIDS was shown on television was Pedro Zamora on The Real World: San Francisco. Zamora, a house member in the 1994 season, was openly gay and open about his diagnosis on the series. Before The Real World, Zamora worked as an activist and AIDS educator and was then able to use this larger platform to help educate and destigmatize AIDS. The show also showed Zamora’s relationship with fellow activist Sean Sasser, and featured the first ever same-sex commitment ceremony on television. Though Zamora died of the disease in late 1994, his legacy lives on and inspires activists to this day.

Philadelphia is still one of the most recognized mainstream films that actively revolves around HIV and AIDS. Tom Hanks, who won the Oscar in Best Actor for his role, stars as a young gay lawyer living with AIDS who is fired from his job due to discrimination who sues his firm, with the help of his attorney (played by Denzel Washington). The film was notable in its critical and commercial success, and for putting a face to HIV and AIDS for an audience who had not seen that story before. Philadelphia is available to rent or buy on Amazon, iTunes, and Youtube.

The Transgender Law Center created a web series Positively Trans, a series of firsthand accounts of trans folks who are HIV positive. The series came out recently and shows how HIV and AIDS still affect the trans community, who are often overlooked in discussions of the disease. The 15 short videos show trans individuals living their daily lives with family and community, and helps destigmatize harmful associations with both HIV and being trans. Positively Trans is available to watch in full on YouTube here.

The Tony Award-winning musical RENT was notable for being a commercially and critically successful Broadway hit with an ensemble cast feature many LGBTQ and HIV-positive characters. Written and composed by the late Jonathan Larson, an out gay man, his legacy still lives on. It was adapted into film in 2005, which kept most of the original Broadway cast, including Anthony Rapp, Jesse L. Martin, and Idina Menzel to name a few. The play is still performed internationally to this day, and is the 11th longest running show in Broadway’s history. The film version of RENT is available to stream on Hulu and Amazon Prime, or to buy and rent from Amazon, iTunes and YouTube.

Larry Kramer’s play The Normal Heart was notable for debuting in 1985 in the midst of the HIV and AIDS crisis while calling out institutions for ignoring the epidemic. It takes place from 1981 to 1984 and follows activist and writer Ned Weeks as he works for action on AIDS as well as starts a relationship with another man, Felix. The play was adapted into an HBO film by Ryan Murphy. HBO also premiered a documentary about the work and activism of Kramer, Larry Kramer In Love & Anger, which follows his career and lasting impact. Both are available to stream on HBO Go as well as to purchase on iTunes, Amazon and YouTube.

The documentary United in Anger: A History of ACT UP, tells the story of the creation and progress made by the original New York chapter of the organization ACT UP. The film shows how the organization was founded and how this initially small group of activists rose up and battled the powers that be for their survival. It also details specific actions of the organization and contextualizes their activism to destigmatize the ongoing conversation about HIV and AIDS. United in Anger is available to purchase on iTunes, YouTube, and Amazon.

Vito, a documentary on the life and activism work of GLAAD co-founder Vito Russo, paints a portrait of the man and all of the work he did to forward LGBTQ acceptance. This includes writing The Celluloid Closet, his teaching work, his television work, and of course his work with ACT UP. The film shows how Russo fought tirelessly for LGBTQ folks, and to get their voices heard in media and by the institutions ignoring the HIV and AIDS crisis. The documentary shows how influential he was, and how his voice inspired others to fight for visibility and recognition. Vito is available to rent or buy on iTunes.

The documentary We Were Here tells the story of how San Francisco became ground zero for the HIV and AIDS crisis as told through firsthand accounts from those who were there as the city dealt with the epidemic. This, paired with archival footage, paints the picture of a city that was ravaged with disease, but also used its policy to help people who didn’t have access to healthcare. The film also focuses on the often overlooked role of queer women in the crisis and fighting against the AIDS epidemic. We Were Here is available to stream on Netflix as well as to rent or buy on iTunes, Amazon and YouTube.

The ABC miniseries When We Rise chronicles four decades of LGBTQ activism, focusing on activists Cleve Jones, Roma Guy and Ken Jones. The eight part series, which aired earlier this year, tackles the HIV and AIDS crisis and how devastating the effects were, as well as the movement that was fostered around. It also shows Cleve Jones’ work and unveiling of the AIDS Memorial Quilt, and all of his work on that important project. When We Rise is available to rent or buy on iTunes and Amazon.